Sussex SU leadership posing with Jacob Rees-Mogg causes row amongst students
One person commented ‘I thought you two were feminists’
Yesterday, SU Activities Officer Lucy Williams posted a photo on Facebook of herself and SU President Frida Gustafsson posing alongside controversial Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The photo, posted on their personal profiles, divided the opinions of students and other full-time SU officers due to Rees-Mogg's traditionalist views rooted in his Catholic faith, which many view as anti-progressive.
Controversy quickly arose in the comments of the photo, which has since been deleted, between SU Officers and other students.
Societies and Citizenship Officer, Aisling Murray, linked a New Statesman article discussing Rees-Mogg's "hurtful and harmful" attitude towards rape and abortion, commenting: "I thought you two were feminists", later adding "he literally sums up everything wrong with the world".
The discussion has extended to the wider student body, with one third year International Relations student saying: "Although I’ve generally agreed with Frida on a lot of issues, this has put serious doubts in my mind about her leadership.
"The Students' Union leader really shouldn’t be attracting this kind of controversial attention."
Frida responded to criticism on the Facebook post, saying: "I do not condone or agree with most of what he has to say – but I find him endlessly fascinating, and have wanted to meet him for years".
Lucy made light of the situation, commenting while she was aware of his opinions, "sometimes you just gotta do it for the gram", and insisting she is "100 per cent a Labour gal".
When The Tab Sussex asked her for a comment regarding the dispute over the photograph, Lucy said: "Fuck off I have a private life".
Some Sussex students sided with the two SU leaders, saying: "A photo doesn't mean anything, everyone needs to calm their tits and worry about more important stuff".
Another added: "Taking the photo wasn't wrong, but it was naive and unprofessional of her to post it online".
The photo was taken at the Houses of Parliament yesterday, after Frida spoke at a Joint Committee inquiry. Frida and Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell met leaders from SOAS and the University of Edinburgh to discuss the scope of free speech at universities.
Frida and Tickell set out to defend the encouragement of free speech at Sussex, with Tickell arguing: "We do everything we can to promote vigorous discussion and vigorous debate".
When asked for her view on the picture debate, Frida told The Tab: ''We had a successful session giving evidence to the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech at Universities and spoke up about issues relevant to our students; from how Prevent has come to unfairly target Muslim students, to how the Students’ Union’s regulatory body has increased bureaucracy around supporting our students do student things.
"When leaving the session we bumped into Jacob Reese Mogg, spoke briefly about freedom of speech, and had a photo taken with him which I published on my personal Facebook profile. In my personal and professional life I’m happy to meet with, discuss and hear from people with views different from my own."
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